February 14, 2011 19:38

Grandmaster Mato Damjanovic dies at 83

Grandmaster Mato Damjanovic dies at 83Yugoslav grandmaster Mato Damjanovic passed away on Saturday, reportedly while playing a game at his chess club. Damjanovic was Yugoslavia's first reserve board at the Leipzig Olympiad in 1960 and an active and strong tournament player in the sixties and seventies. He would have turned 84 next month.

Mato Damjanovic was born on March 23, 1927 in Osijek, Croatia. He became relatively famous in his country during the Candidates Tournament in 1959, which was held in Zagreb and convincingly won by Mikhail Tal (who would defeat Mikhail Botvinnik a year later to become World Champion).

Damjanovic represented Yugoslavia at board 5 (first reserve board) at the 14th Chess Olympiad at Leipzig 1960, where he scored +6 -2 =2. Back then the top four boards were Gligoric, Matanovic, Ivkov and Bertok.

At the European Team Championship, held in Hamburg in 1965, he was part of the team that won the silver medal. Damjanovic was awarded the International Master title in 1962, and the Grandmaster title in 1964.

He played in hundreds of strong tournaments during the 1960s and 1970s, his most active period. Among his best results were shared second place at Sochi 1964 (Chigorin Memorial), first at Rovigo 1966, shared first at Paris 1967/8, first at Zagreb 1969, shared second at Netanya 1969, winning a match against a young Jan Timman 3-1 in Delft in 1969, shared first at Bad Pyrmont 1970, second at Reggio Emilia 1971/2, first at Florence 1972, shared second at Zagreb 1972, second at Birmingham 1976, shared second at Vukovar 1976, shared first at Virovitica 1976 and shared second at Birmingham 1977.

Damjanovic left a large footprint at the local chess scene, with important victories for the Zagreb youth team and later for the Chess Club Mladost Zagreb, where he was first board for quite some time. In recent years he didn't play official games anymore. According to Croatian grandmaster Bogdan Lalic, Damjanovic used to come in at the local chess club an play blitz under his own rules - game would last seven minutes each.

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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


Cheesus's picture

RIP Mato. The chess world is going to miss you. :(

Clifford's picture

You might at least have mentioned one reason that Damjanovic "didn't play official games any more" - he was banned for one year by FIDE in 2006 for his 'participation' in a non-existent tournament in Hungary in 2004. This was to my knowledge the first time he had been banned for corruption after decades of suspicions over his actions at critical moments in tournaments.

Rob Brown's picture

Why would they mention this the day after the Mr. Damjanovic died? And, why would you bring it up, Cliff, considering that the deceased has left friends and loved ones behind? There is no good place to die, but some places are better than others. For a dedicated player who clearly loved the game, dying at the board was appropriate. Here's hoping he's remembered for all the good things he's done.

S's picture

Its sad and all but I had never even heard of him (and Id say many others if honest would agree)
Its all too easy these days to inflate a players worth and eulogise just for the sake of it.

jazzkoo's picture

"Its all too easy these days to inflate a players worth and eulogise just for the sake of it."

When he was awarded the GM title I'm guessing there was about 100 GMs. Now there are over 1000 I believe. More of an achievement perhaps in the sixties.

And I've heard of him! :-)

noone's picture

Yeah but the overall level of play was also lower.

columbo's picture

it is not because you never heard of someone that this person doesn't exist !

predrag's picture

In the time when was very difficult to reach GM title he did it...He was not top ranked player but in the first place passion player who usually made his 2-3 pluses per tournament.After all he beat Botvinnik and Korchnoi and Tal in blitz games.

RuralRob's picture

He died while playing chess...

That must have been rather traumatic for his opponent.

E's picture

I hoped to die at the board last night but much to my regret it didn't happen.

dandylion's picture

famous line of Korchnoi to Gufeld when Gufeld became a Grandmaster
Gufeld :‘Now we are colleagues’?
Korchnoi : ‘No. Now you are a colleague of Damjanovic.

predrag's picture

From Croatia.Here is small anecdote between me and Mato.In 1968 I was young player and Mato played simultan against 30 of us.He was playing quick but kibitz behind me every time commented what he plays by following words...It is not GM it is some ASS..You know kibitz they say mostly something stupid.No doubt Mato heard those comments but said nothing.Then I did not realize that he thought I called him ASS!Some 15 years after that I met him playing blitz.He use to have same ritual every time.7 minutes,50 cents a game.Not too strong opponent.On the left side of board ALWAYS pack of Chesterfield cigarettes and green lighter.So I sneaked behind his back cause I wanted to see GM at play.He was losing one game after another....Then his opponent started to tease him that he play bad.And Mato rose his voice and said angry.Of course I play bad when this ASS stand behind me!!!He was convinced that I was guy who called him names.What a memory.

S2's picture

behind every great man is an ass.

Arlindo Vieira's picture

Well...In the future after his death, Crisan a nice guy? And Florin Ge... honesty in person?

Damjanivic one of my secret heroes od the chessboard...till 2006! A Great Player, but...

In the present - the Book " Yugoslav Chess Triumphs"

"“Twenty-four hours playing unofficial games without showing any signs of fatigue — this is what they say about Mato Damjanovic. Practice being his forte, he usually says: I’ve never had enough time to study chess theory", which is characteristic of his enormous hunger for chess as well as of his disclination to sped solitary hours in study.
His success is based exclusively on his experience exclusively on his experience playing at numerous tournaments and the thousands of unofficial games between them, sometimes between two rounds of a tournament.

Mato Damjanovic was born in Djeletovci on March 23rd 1927. His profession is chess journalism. He is one of the few foreign players to win their grandmaster's title in the Soviet Union. This was at a tournament in Soci in 1964. However, his best tournaments were in Zagreb where he lives. He was winner in 1969, and three years later he was second. His tournaments successes include second place in the international tournament in Salgotarjan (Hungary) and the fourth place he shared with grandmaster Stein in Amsterdam 1969. He was a member of the Yugoslav Olympic team in Leipzig 1960.

Playing chess he has travelled all over the world, but it has not changed him; he has remain simple and modest as ever. For example, his greatest and only hobby is collecting all kinds of cigarette lighters. Sometimes he walks for hours from shop to shop looking for some new lighter that is missing in his collection. But none of them stay with him very long; sometimes it simply does not work any more, or Mato loses it somewhere or has to give it as a present to some good friend -— ,”has to" because he could never refuse a friend.

Chess is the most important thing in the world for him, something almost sacred. He is always ready to participate in any tournament, whether in some big city or a remote village. Just as Bora Kostic once did, he also makes a distinction between people who play chess and others who do not.
Understandably, all his attention and interest are devoted to chess players with Mato frequently playing host to some player from foreign parts.

Though according to the medical experts he should be long past his zenith, he continues to play chess very well indeed — one might even. say that he plays better as the years go by.”

muhlo's picture

I am not a strong chess player, and up to the meeting with Mate Damnjanovic we never had a chance to play with the grandmaster. Can you think of what it's like to sit opposite the Grand Master and you play a lot of blitz party?!?
For me, it was an invaluable experience.
We played a lot of games in the period ten years before his death. Of course, that he was over 70 years old and he did not grandmaster powr, but played chess in logical way and everyone could learn a lot .
Mato Damjanovic liked to play chess. Much weaker players could get in touch and play with him. He was always on disposial.
His death on the chessboard has a lot of symbolism.
Rest in peace Mato Damjanovic!

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